The Nagas, an Indigenous people inhabiting several northeastern Indian states and areas across the border in Myanmar, marked the 75th anniversary of their declaration of independence on Sunday.
In Chedema, a small mountain village in Nagaland state, blue flags flutter high in the clear sky.
Seeking self-rule, the Nagas had announced independence a day before India in 1947 and commemorate this moment every year.
Indians across the country celebrated 75 years of independence from British rule on Monday.
The Naga rebellion is the longest-running in South Asia. But the largest Naga armed faction, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), has been in a ceasefire with the Indian government for 25 years as peace talks have come to a deadlock over the issue of using the Naga flag and constitution.
Thousands gathered at the event organised by the Naga National Council (NNC), the community’s parent political organisation.
Infants slept on the back of their mothers while young boys and girls helped prepare the feast that followed the hoisting of the blue Naga flag. About 100 veteran fighters, who laid down their arms after the first ceasefire in 1964, attended the event in their uniforms.
Riivosielie Chakriinuo, the oldest surviving general in the Naga Army, wore a medal for his service and smiled as he recalled the 1964 ceasefire, saying it brought peace to the land.
“I used to serve the gun. Now I serve God,” he said.
Vilazoü Suokhrie, 87, said she was overjoyed to see so many people gathered to mark the Naga community’s declaration of independence.
While the declaration has never been contested by India, Nagaland and other northeastern states remain part of the country despite years of rebellion seeking self-rule. The Nagas preserve their identity and history through the annual event.
“When the British were leaving, we expressed our desire to be a free people,” said Adinno Phizo, 90, who is president of the NNC.
More than 90 percent of Nagaland’s nearly two million people are Christian, a striking contrast in a Hindu-majority country. For decades, Nagas have fought a battle for independence from India, and there are few families that have not suffered from the violence.
In recent years, the violence has ebbed but the demands for political rights have grown even as the federal government has pushed for talks with the separatists.